Expert Analysis


14 min read

Grading Biggest Moves From 2023 Offseason After 1 Year

New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers (8) looks on from the sideline against the Miami Dolphins during the fourth quarter at Hard Rock Stadium. (Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports)

Signing unrestricted veteran free agents from other teams and making high-profile trades are the most nerve-wracking part of an NFL general manager's job.

It’s what keeps GMs up at night, wondering if they made the right decision to sign or trade for a player and if the player will: play well in a new system, respond to the team’s coaches, be a good teammate and be highly motivated after getting paid. Then, there’s always concern about a player staying healthy.

"Buyer beware" were always my watchwords.

Here’s a look at the biggest moves of the 2023 offseason and my grades based on how things have played out thus far.

This list doesn't include players signed after the start of training camp — such as Jadeveon Clowney, who made a big impact in Baltimore. Nor does it include players re-signed by their teams, the most prominent being soon-to-be-named-league-MVP Lamar Jackson by the Ravens in May.  


Green Bay Packers Trade Aaron Rodgers to New York Jets

This was the biggest trade of last offseason and was finally completed just prior to the draft. The Green Bay Packers sent their mercurial four-time MVP, Aaron Rodgers, to the New York Jets and moved up two spots in the first round to select EDGE/OLB Lukas Van Ness (four sacks, 10 quarterback hits and 32 tackles in his rookie season) and received a second-round pick (turned into starting TE Luke Musgrave, who had 34 receptions for 352 yards and one touchdown in 11 games) and a second-rounder in this year’s draft (No. 41 overall). There also was a swap of late-round picks last year.

Rodgers lasted four plays before tearing his Achilles tendon in the season opener. Year 1 of this trade clearly goes to Green Bay. We’ll see if the 40-year old Rodgers can even things out in Year 2 — and possibly beyond.

The Packers made the right call in moving on from the Rodgers media circus and handing the reins to Jordan Love (after his three years behind Rodgers), who had a terrific second half of the season. Love had 21 touchdown passes and one interception in nine games from midseason through the playoff demolition of the Dallas Cowboys before throwing two picks in the divisional round loss at San Francisco.

It certainly looks like Green Bay has its next franchise quarterback, while Rodgers will try again in 2024 to show the Packers they made a mistake in trading him.

Packers Grade: A+

Jets Grade: D-

Los Angeles Rams Trade Jalen Ramsey to Miami Dolphins

This trade was painted as a salary dump by the Los Angeles Rams on a $20 million-per-year cornerback who they had acquired in 2019 from the Jacksonville Jaguars for two first-round picks and a fourth-rounder. The Miami Dolphins gave up a pittance — a third-round pick and backup TE Hunter Long — for the still-elite Jalen Ramsey.

The former first-round pick by the Jaguars helped the Rams win the Super Bowl in the 2021 season when he was a first-team All-Pro. The 29-year-old played well in 2023 for the Dolphins with three interceptions and five passes defensed in 10 games after a knee injury landed him on injured reserve early in the season. He had five tackles and a pass break-up in the wild-card playoff loss at Kansas City and was selected to his seventh Pro Bowl (which he's made every year beginning in his second season).

The Rams absorbed a $19.6 million dead money hit to their 2023 cap by trading Ramsey. Long played in only four games (no catches) and spent most of the season on IR with thigh and knee injuries. The Rams recouped a major gain by using the third round pick on All-Rookie OLB Byron Young, who had eight sacks, 61 tackles and two forced fumbles.

Los Angeles still should’ve received more in return for Ramsey.

Rams Grade: C

Dolphins Grade: A-

Chicago Bears Trade No. 1 Overall Pick to Carolina Panthers

The Chicago Bears received a bonanza with this move.

The Carolina Panthers traded their No. 9 overall pick in 2023 (turned into All-Rookie OT Darnell Wright), a 2023 second-rounder (who became starting CB Tyrique Stevenson — four interceptions, 16 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and 86 tackles) and an excellent wide receiver in DJ Moore, who had 96 receptions for 1,364 yards and eight touchdowns.

Still to come for the Bears from this deal are a 2025 second-round pick and, best of all, the Panthers’ first-round pick in April, which is No. 1 overall after Carolina’s dismal 2-15 season.

The Panthers made the so-far-ill-fated choice of selecting Bryce Young over C.J. Stroud with the top pick. Young struggled with a shaky supporting cast. He had a 73.7 passer rating, which ranked 34th, completed only 59.8 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and 10 picks and was sacked 62 times (second-most).

Stroud had a terrific rookie season leading the Houston Texans to the AFC South title and a wild-card round win over the Cleveland Browns before falling in Baltimore. He ranked sixth in passer rating (100.8) and is the likely Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Bears Grade: A+

Panthers Grade: D-

New Orleans Saints Trade Sean Payton to Denver Broncos

The 60-year old Sean Payton retired/resigned from the New Orleans Saints after the 2021 season. He was traded to the Denver Broncos for a first-round pick in 2023 (No. 30 overall) and a 2024 second-round pick, with New Orleans sending a 2024 third-rounder back to Denver.

It’s a win so far for the Saints. They gained two high picks for a coach who won a Super Bowl in New Orleans but had left the team. New Orleans drafted DT Bryan Bresee at No. 30, and he has upside after a decent rookie season when he was a rotation player. Bresee had 4.5 sacks, 24 tackles and seven tackles for loss.

Payton had a rollercoaster season. The Broncos started 1-5, then won five straight (including four wins over 2023 playoff teams) but went 2-4 down the stretch to finish 7-9. Still it was a three-win improvement over Denver's 2022 when QB Russell Wilson had a poor season.

Wilson rebounded under Payton (going from the 27th-rated quarterback to eighth-rated) until the latter part of the season when he had a three-interception game against Houston and was benched the last two weeks (in part to protect the team against an injury).

Wilson is now a trade-or-release candidate in the offseason, in which case Payton will be under pressure to find a quality replacement.    

Saints Grade: A

Broncos Grade: C

Jessie Bates celebrates
Atlanta Falcons safety Jessie Bates III (3) reacts after a stop against the New Orleans Saints in the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)


Jessie Bates, S, Atlanta Falcons

Jessie Bates, the Cincinnati Bengals' former second-round pick, had 14 interceptions and 479 tackles in his five seasons with the team.

He was a terrific signing by the Atlanta Falcons as he proved worthy of the four-year, $64 million contract by producing a Pro Bowl season with a career-high in interceptions (six, to rank third in the league) and tackles (a team-leading 132), along with 11 passes defensed.

The 26-year-old Bates played a major role in the Falcons’ improvement from the 27th-ranked defense in 2022 to 11th-ranked in 2023 and from 25th to eighth against the pass.

Falcons Grade: A

Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Baltimore Ravens

Odell Beckham Jr. was a splashy offseason signing for $15 million on a one-year deal. Lamar Jackson reportedly asked the Baltimore Ravens to sign Beckham to help the team's passing game.

Beckham earned an additional $750,000 in incentives despite having a somewhat disappointing season with only 35 catches, 565 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games — rookie Zay Flowers led the team in receiving.

The 31-year old Beckham was a first-round pick by the New York Giants and had three Pro Bowl seasons with the team but was a controversial player on and off the field — while with the Giants and after being traded to the Browns in 2019.

He wound up with the Rams late in the 2021 season where he helped them advance to and win the Super Bowl — in a game in which he tore his ACL and missed the 2022 season due to rehabbing the injury before joining Baltimore.

With the Ravens tight against the 2024 cap, we’ll have to see if Beckham is back in Baltimore.

Ravens Grade: C

Orlando Brown, OT, Cincinnati Bengals

Former Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs tackle Orlando Brown entered free agency coming off his fourth straight Pro Bowl season in which he helped protect Patrick Mahomes on the way to a Super Bowl title. It was a mild surprise when the Chiefs didn’t step up to keep him.

Brown wound up in Cincinnati on a four-year, $64 million deal that was considered under market, especially when Kansas City gave Jawaan Taylor $80 million over four years to play right tackle instead of the left tackle spot of Brown.

The 27-year old Brown was a third-round pick by the Ravens in 2018. He was traded to Kansas City in 2021 and played under the franchise tag in 2022 for the Chiefs.

Brown didn’t have a great 2023 season by his standards — seven sacks allowed — so we’ll see if he can rebound to his Pro Bowl form in 2024.

Bengals Grade: C+ 

Derek Carr, QB, New Orleans Saints

The Saints signed 32-year old, four-time Pro Bowler Derek Carr to a four-year deal for $37.5 million per season after he was released by the Las Vegas Raiders. He had been their starter for nine years after being drafted in the second round in 2014.

Carr battled through injuries to play in every game this season and led the Saints to a 9-8 record that had them in playoff contention in the final week.

Carr finished the season strong with four straight 100-plus passer ratings and wins in three of those games, including the last two weeks against division rivals Tampa Bay and Atlanta. His 97.7 passer rating ranked 10th (with 25 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions), and New Orleans’ passing game ranked 11th.

Saints Grade: B+

Leonard Floyd, Edge, Buffalo Bills

The 31-year-old Leonard Floyd was a bargain signing at $7 million (plus $2 million in incentives) on a one-year deal for the Buffalo Bills. He tied his career high with 10.5 sacks and added 19 quarterbacks hits, 32 tackles and nine tackles for loss for the league’s seventh-ranked defense.

Floyd was the Bears’ first-round pick in 2016 and was a key defender on a Super Bowl–winning Rams’ team he had signed with in 2021 on a $16 million per year deal. He might be on the move again because the Bills are currently $51 million over the 2024 salary cap.

Bills Grade: A

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Las Vegas Raiders

Jimmy Garoppolo replaced Carr as the Raiders’ starting quarterback on a three-year, $72.75 million deal. It wound up being a disappointing season for Garoppolo, who started only six games. A back injury and inconsistency cost him the starting role.

Antonio Pierce took over when Josh McDaniels was fired midseason, and Pierce went with rookie Aidan O’Connell over Garoppolo, who had a career-low 77.7 passer rating (No. 42) with seven touchdowns and nine picks.

Garoppolo was 3-3 in his starts but had trouble connecting with star receiver Davante Adams, particularly in a 26-14 Week 8 loss at Detroit when Garoppolo had only 126 passing yards and Adams had one catch for 11 yards. McDaniels was fired the next week, and Garoppolo was benched.

He has a $27.6 million cap number in 2024 with a $28.3 million dead money hit if he’s released before June 1. Garoppolo’s future is shaky with the Raiders, who pick 13th in the first round of the coming draft and could be seeking a new quarterback.

Raiders Grade: D-

Javon Hargrave, DT, San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers dedicate big money to their stout defensive line, and Javon Hargrave profited from that strategy with a four-year, $84 million contract. He had a solid first season in San Francisco with seven sacks, 14 quarterback hits, 44 tackles and seven tackles for loss.

But he didn't have as much of an impact as he did in 2022 with the Eagles when he had 11 sacks and 60 tackles to ratchet up the free-agent bidding.

Hargrave was a third-round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2016, and he’s a two-time Pro Bowler (including this season). After his first four years in Pittsburgh, he spent three years in Philadelphia under a $13 million-per-year contract before moving to San Francisco.

49ers Grade: B

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Tennessee Titans

Five-time Pro Bowler DeAndre Hopkins signed a two-year, $26 million contract (plus up to $6 million in incentives) with the Tennessee Titans in July.

The 31-year-old played in every game for the first time since 2020 when he was in his first of three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals after they acquired him in a trade with Houston (where he was a first-round pick in 2013). Hopkins was the NFL’s highest paid receiver early in his Cardinals tenure.   

He’s not as explosive as he was earlier in his career, but Hopkins led the team in receiving and is still a consistent receiver when healthy. And his price tag looks good compared with the league’s highest paid receivers (currently Tyreek Hill at an average over $28 million per year). The cupboard is pretty bare for new QB Will Levis and the Titans at wide receiver without Hopkins.

With new coach Brian Callahan coming in, the Titans will have to make an early decision on Hopkins’ future as he has a $4.46 million roster bonus due on March 15. The team can save $10 million against the cap (and $14 million in cash) by trading or releasing him.

Hopkins had 75 receptions for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns as he adjusted to Levis after Ryan Tannehill was injured and eventually replaced.

Titans Grade: A-

Baker Mayfield, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got a steal when they signed Baker Mayfield on a one-year, $4 million contract with an additional $4.5 million in possible incentives. The No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft by the Browns bet on himself and the opportunity in Tampa Bay, and it has paid off with his best season since 2020 when he led Cleveland to the playoffs.

Mayfield then played for the Panthers and Rams before joining the Bucaneers.

This season, Mayfield led Tampa Bay to the NFC South title with five wins in the last six games before a dominant performance in the wild-card round win over Philadelphia. He threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns in that 32-9 triumph before falling at Detroit in the divisional round (in a game where he had 349 passing yards and three touchdowns but threw two costly interceptions).

Mayfield’s 4,044 passing yards (No. 9) and 28 touchdown passes (No. 7) were career highs, and he finished the regular season 12th in passer rating at 94.6.

It’s likely the 28-year-old Mayfield will re-sign in Tampa Bay. And his next contract should be in the $35-40 million per year range for a team that has $49 million in cap room entering the 2024 league year.

Buccaneers Grade: A

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, New England Patriots

Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots thought they had a relative bargain signing JuJu Smith-Schuster at $8.5 million per year plus lucrative performance incentives (that Smith-Schuster didn’t achieve). Smith-Schuster had just led the Super Bowl champion Chiefs’ wide receivers in catches (78) and receiving yards (933) with three touchdowns.

Like the Patriots’ 4-13 season, the Smith-Schuster signing turned into a disaster. He had only 29 receptions for 260 yards and one touchdown in 11 games. And he ended the season on IR because of an ankle injury.

It would cost New England more against the 2024 cap to cut him ($12.267 million in dead money) than to keep him ($10.28 cap number). So the Patriots will probably retain him and hope the 27-year-old can return to his level of play from his early years — as a second-round pick and Pro Bowler in Pittsburgh followed by his fine play in his only season with the Chiefs.

Patriots Grade: D

Jawaan Taylor, OT, Kansas City Chiefs

After Jawaan Taylor's rookie deal as a second-round pick with the Jacksonville Jaguars expired, he signed a $20 million per year deal (with $60 million guaranteed) with the Chiefs, a huge commitment from Kansas City on a right tackle who had never made a Pro Bowl.

It’s been a rough first year in Kansas City for Taylor, who has committed 20 penalties and allowed five sacks. His potential dead-money hit ensures he’ll be with the Chiefs next season, and his contract likely will be restructured to lower his $24.75 million cap number for 2024.

Taylor will have to play at a consistently higher level and be more mistake-free to stay in 2025 and beyond. He’s only 26, so the Chiefs will be patient for the short term and try to coach up a durable player who has never missed a start in his five-year career.

Chiefs Grade: D+